In January, the Shadow Justice Secretary told the Evening Standard that Barnet was one of six Labour boroughs targeted by Labour. As I noted earlier, it was the only one that would be genuinely impressive. Only one other – Croydon – had an overall Conservative majority at the last elections four years ago and that was very narrow. Four years ago Labour actually won overall majorities in Harrow and Tower Hamlets – so winning here would get them back to where they were on the day of their General Election defeat. Redbridge and Merton saw no overall control so only modest advance would see Labour take those.
But gaining Barnet would be an achievement for Labour. However, Mr Khan now says it is no longer a Labour target. The Barnet Bugle reports it was dropped from the list he gave at Labour’s campaign launch in Enfield:
‘He said that it was a very difficult borough demographically, made reference to low turnout but had nothing positive to say about the local Labour Group leadership or their campaigning. (This distinctly contrasted with the praise just heaped on Enfield Labour). He very swiftly moved on to talking about Andrew Dismore and Sarah Sackman and next year’s general election. That may have been the end of matters were it not for Mr Khan’s appearance on the Sunday Politics. When asked about the boroughs Labour were targeting in London the same four (not five including Barnet) were mentioned.’
So Merton, Croydon, Redbridge and Merton and all that remain of Labour’s London targets. Tower Hamlets – where the key challenge is getting their candidate elected as Mayor against the Livingstonian independent – has also been quietly dropped.
What are we to make of this? If it is expectation management and Labour simply want to portray themselves as exceeding their list of targets then why did they include Barnet and Tower Hamlets in the first place? My own hunch is that Mr Khan has been gripped by sincere pessimism – not that I would encourage my comrades standing as Conservative council candidates in Barnet to just put their feet up for the next week. It will clearly still be a closely fought battle.
Whatever the result ends up being, it is pretty incompetent for Mr Khan to publicly include councils on a target list and then publicly remove them.